Saudi Arabia opens new Baghdad consulate, pledges $1bn in loans for Iraq


RIYADH:  (DNA) –  Saudi Arabia opened a new consulate in Baghdad on Thursday after announcing  $1 billion in loans for development projects in Iraq.Three more diplomatic branches are to be opened in other Iraqi cities soon, Saudi Arabia’s Commerce and Investment Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qassabi saidSaudi Arabia and Iraq have moved to improve relations in recent months.  The Kingdom reopened its Baghdad embassy in 2016 after it was closed in 1991 in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

The opening of the new consulate building came as senior ministers from the Kingdom visited Baghdad as part of a meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council.

Saudi Arabia will provide Iraq with $1 billion in loans for development projects, Al-Qassabi said, plus $500 million to boost exports and a gift of a 100,000-seat sports stadium to be built on Baghdad’s outskirts.

“A new phase of relations between Riyadh and Baghdad has begun,” Al-Qassabi, who is leading the Saudi delegation, said.

“We have seen from the Iraqi side sincere feelings of brotherhood.”

He said 13 agreements between the two countries were in their final stages. These will “have a significant impact on raising the level of cooperation between the two countries,” Al-Qassabi added.

Trade will also be boosted when the Arar border crossing between the two countries opens in six months.

Al-Qassabi was speaking during a press conference held with Iraq’s Oil Minister Thamir Ghadban.

The second session of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, started on Thursday in Baghdad.

The meeting discussed ways to improve cooperation and relations. The council previously met in Riyadh in October 2017.

As part of the visit, around 80 Saudi and Iraqi businessmen and investors met on Thursday on improving economic ties.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan visited some of Baghdad’s famous historic and cultural sites on Thursday.

These included Mutanabbi Street, Al-Qashla and the Abbasid Palace.

“Baghdad is distinguished by many cultural and archaeological landmarks, which are immortalized by history as cultural symbols of great importance,” Prince Badr said. “Baghdad is considered a beacon of cultural heritage in the Arab world.”

The first meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council was held in Riyadh in October 2017.